Writing is like being able to put life into a snow globe. It takes the things that are too big and scary and reduces them into a form that I can put away when I want and look at from a distance. It also takes all that’s good in life and captures it into something I can take out when I want and look at close up and keep forever. It makes the bad things into something I can hold…and the good things into something I can hold onto. Both help so much that I need that little souvenir of life.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The New Books are Here!

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Matters is officially released tomorrow. It’s a collection of stories about weird family members, and appropriately enough, it’s decorated throughout with pictures of nuts.

Like most of them, my story is written under a pseudonym with all of the names changed. It’s about a former family member, an older woman I’ll call Laverne (though she has a different pseudonym in the book). I did not write about this woman’s talent for selecting the very thing a person does best and then attempting to compete with it, usually with amusing results—but she does that, too, especially with younger women. It’s an obvious need to assert her dominance, and Laverne is all about dominance.

For instance, she recently told my former sister-in-law about looking at colleges. The irony is that Laverne has never attended college herself or taken an interest in colleges, and to my knowledge she never took any of her children on college tours. But she does know that my West Coast sister-in-law has a son at Notre Dame and a son at Syracuse, is still traveling all over the country looking at more for her other two, and knows more about colleges than most paid advisors.

What’s funniest is that her facts sounded totally made up. Laverne doesn’t care. If she were part of a water buffalo herd being studied on Animal Planet, she would be that big old mean one that bites the others in order to remain top cow.

With me, Laverne’s issue usually involved words, although when I was eight months pregnant she told me—in her typically lofty manner—that my obstetrician was wrong when he told me that the baby got hiccups. She is fond of starting her sentences with, “No, honey….”

In honor of the book release, here is one of my favorite Lavernishments:

Laverne’s son Barry and I were sitting at Laverne’s kitchen table, and Barry was doing a crossword puzzle. Laverne was nowhere to be seen.

Barry asked me, “What’s a ‘kind of speech?’ Spelled, ‘c-a-n-blank.’” I told him I thought it was “t” for “cant.” That was when Laverne’s voice piped in from the other room, “No, honey, that doesn’t make sense!” I explained that I didn’t mean the contraction, “can’t,” but the word “cant.”

Laverne said, “No, honey, that’s not a word. It’s c-a-n-D. It’s short for ‘candor.’” Barry then asked me what a four letter word for “bovines” was. Started with “k.”

First I loudly suggested that he ask his mother. No answer. After a while, I quietly whispered, “’kine?”

That was when we heard the loud sigh from the other room. “No, honey, that’s not a word, either. It’s ‘oxen.’” Barry reminded her that the word started with “k.”

Laverne’s classic response? “Then it’s ‘cows.’ They’ve just misspelled it.”

The new phone book's here! The new phone book's here! ~Navin R. Johnson, “The Jerk"


  1. Too funny! Those people that make up crossword puzzles better get their act together. Ha!

  2. I don't know how in the world you never slapped that woman silly!! Sounds like Ray Barone's mom on Everybody Loves Raymond!!! Eeeekkkkkk!

  3. Tee-hee! Every family's got one!


  4. With family members like that, you'll never run out of writing material...

  5. Yes, Weedwacker, I think she needs to work for a crossword puzzle company. She can stump everyone with words like "cand."

    Becky, you hit the nail on the head. She even looks like Raymond's mother. But much, much meaner!

    Thanks, Pat and Sioux, for looking on the bright side!! I knew there had to be one....

  6. Holy cow...er, kow!? She sounds like a real piece of work. Good fodder for funny stories, as long as you don't put her in cement booties first!

  7. LOL, what a family member but then we all have them don't we?
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  8. Oh I could write a book on mine! You portrayed her so well, I feel I know her. Pity you,lucky you...free!


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